By Rachael Zipperer, Masters Candidate at the University of Texas School of Information
One of the most important factors (and one of the biggest challenges) in preserving and making digital objects discoverable is metadata. In simpler terms, metadata consists of the terms used to describe a resource. In a digital repository, that resource could be anything from an electronic thesis to a digital copy of an old photograph. In any case, the words used to describe those items are what allows users to find them when conducting an online search. In these examples, the associated metadata might be the name of the author of the thesis or the people pictured in the photograph. With digital items, metadata also includes information about the file itself to document the digital life of the object.
Missing metadata can also be a barrier to discovery when searching repositories for specific information, and often metadata is missing simply because the information needed to best describe an item is unknown. This issue of unknown metadata was the inspiration for a digital exhibit I’ve put together as part of my capstone project. Thinking about how many digital items might not come up in online searches for proper names, I decided to create an exhibit of items from TDL members’ digital collections that feature unknown creators or unidentified people. The exhibit consists of a gallery with links to each item’s location in a digital repository or digital collection along with some information about the collection each item is part of. I hope the exhibit gets viewers thinking about the importance of description and discovery in digital collections, and that it might inspire further exploration into TDL members’ digital collections by highlighting items that otherwise may have often gone unseen.
You can view the exhibit at unknownandunidentified.wordpress.com
ALA has more about metadata and metadata standards here.
To learn more about Rachael’s project and view her exhibit click here.